Montgomery Planning Board adopts Annual School Test Guidelines, certifies FY2021 Annual School Test and accepts School Utilization Report, part of new County Growth and Infrastructure Policy, at their December 17 meeting

December 17, 2020

Growth and Infrastructure Policy
Annual School Test will guide school adequacy analysis and new residential development fees for remainder of the fiscal year

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), acted on three items related to the newly adopted 2020-2024 Growth and Infrastructure Policy at their December 17 virtual meeting – the adoption of the Annual School Test Guidelines, and certification of the results of the updated Annual School Test and the accompanying School Utilization Report. The Growth and Infrastructure Policy (GIP) was unanimously adopted by the Montgomery County Council on November 16, 2020 to ensure public facilities, particularly schools and transportation infrastructure, are adequate to accommodate new development. One of the biggest changes to this update of the quadrennial policy is the ending of residential development moratoria that have proven ineffective in matching school capacity to the county’s needs and prevented the creation of new housing to help meet the county’s housing supply gap. In lieu of moratoria, the GIP requires developers to make additional payments, Utilization Premium Payments, as determined by the Annual School Test in areas of the county with over-crowded schools if they want to build new housing in those areas.

View the December 17 Planning Board staff report
View ATTACHMENT A – Annual School Test Guidelines v1.0
View ATTACHMENT B – Updated FY2021 Annual School Test Results
View ATTACHMENT C – FY2021 School Utilization Report

“Today’s actions by the Planning Board were important because they are the first steps to implement the newly adopted Growth and Infrastructure Policy,” said Countywide Planning and Policy Chief Jason Sartori. “The updated Annual School Test ushers in a new era in how the county pursues our housing goals while ensuring our schools can accommodate the desired growth.”

The Planning Board acted on the following items:

Adoption of the Annual School Test Guidelines: To increase transparency in this process, the new Growth and Infrastructure Policy requires the Planning Board to approve Annual School Test Guidelines that document the methodology and explain the various rules and standards used. Items that are addressed in the Guidelines include: when, how and why Montgomery Planning modifies Montgomery County Public School’s (MCPS) enrollment and capacity projections; how a school service area’s adequacy status and ceilings are established: how student generation rate calculations are developed and how the rates are applied to estimate the enrollment impacts of residential development applications; and how to calculate Utilization Premium Payment factors for residential units in new or amended development applications.

Certification of the Updated FY2021 Annual School Test: The Annual School Test is a primary component of the county’s GIP that evaluates the adequacy of schools to accommodate new residential development. Under the new GIP, the Annual School Test evaluates the projected utilization levels of individual school facilities four years in the future. When a school is found to exceed certain utilization thresholds, its school service area is placed in one of three Utilization Premium Payment (UPP) tiers, which correspond to different payment levels. The higher the school’s projected utilization, the higher the UPP tier and the higher the payment level a developer will have to pay. Planning staff prepared updated FY2021 Annual School Test results according to the newly adopted Growth and Infrastructure Policy. Now certified by the Planning Board, the updated school test results will take effect on January 1, 2021.

Introduction of the School Utilization Report: The new GIP requires Montgomery Planning to prepare a School Utilization Report at the time of the Annual School Test. The Report is to consist of a Countywide Report and an Individual Schools Report and provide supplemental information about the county’s public-school facilities from both perspectives. The FY2021 School Utilization Report is a pilot of such effort and may be improved in future years with additional data. For example, trends in housing production and home sales, by school service area, may be considered for future reports.

Highlights of the FY2021 Annual School Test

  • Eight elementary school (Ashburton ES, Lucy V. Barnsley ES, Burtonsville ES, Farmland ES, Spark M. Matsunaga ES, Rock Creek Forest ES, Snowden Farm ES, and South lake ES) and three high school (James H. Blake HS, Gaithersburg HS, and Northwest HS) service areas will require a Tier 1 UPP.
  • Six elementary school (Bethesda ES, Burning Tree ES, Diamond ES, Greencastle ES, Judith A. Resnik ES, and Watkins Mill ES), one middle school (Argyle MS), and five high school (Montgomery Blair HS, Winston Churchill HS, Clarksburg HS, Albert Einstein HS, and Richard Montgomery HS) service areas will require a Tier 2 UPP.
  • Three elementary school (Bannockburn ES, Highland View ES, and Mill Creek Towne ES) and two high school (Walter Johnson HS and Quince Orchard HS) service areas will require a Tier 3 UPP.

About the newly adopted Growth and Infrastructure Policy

The Growth and Infrastructure Policy — one of the many ways that Montgomery Planning helps to preserve the excellent quality of life in Montgomery County — is based on having enough infrastructure to support growth. It includes criteria and guidance for the administration of Montgomery County’s Adequate Public Facility Ordinance (APFO), which matches the timing of private development with the availability of public infrastructure. Every four years, an effort to update the Growth and Infrastructure Policy originates with Montgomery Planning staff before working its way through the Planning Board and the County Council. The purpose is to ensure that the best available tools are used to test whether infrastructure like schools, transportation, water and sewer services can support future growth. Key revisions in the schools element of the 2020-2024 update include:

  • Eliminating residential development moratoria.
  • Requiring developers of new housing to make Utilization Premium Payments (UPP) in areas with overcrowded schools.
  • Modifying the calculation and applicability of development impact taxes.
  • Requiring the Planning Board to adopt Annual School Test Guidelines.
  • Requiring the Planning Department to produce an annual School Utilization Report.
  • Designating neighborhoods by School Impact Areas, which are characterized by the amount and type of residential development they experience and their impacts on school enrollment.